Peter Hoskin

Have the Tories drawn back some of their spending plans?

Have the Tories drawn back some of their spending plans?
Text settings

If you want a taste of what Cameron's speech on the public services was like earlier, do tune into his interview with Nick Robinson - video on the BBC website here.  He's considerably more unabashed about talking cuts than he has been in the past, and stresses the "tough choices" that a Tory government would have to make. 

It makes for a fascinating contrast with his press conference in January, when Cameron asserted that the NHS, schools, international development and defence would all see real terms spending increases under a Tory government.  Pushed by Robinson today, he seems only to commit to increases for the NHS and international development and, even on those, seems quite evasive. 

Cameron now claims that he meant for the January commitments to apply only to the 2009-10 budgetary year, although no-one I've spoken to remembers him clarifying that at the time, and the abiding impression was that they were open-ended, multi-year commitments.  In which case, you've got to wonder whether those earlier plans have simply weakened as the Tories wake up to the fiscal mess they may inherit.

Either way, this seeming change in tone will be spun by Labour as cruel.  It's not - it's realistic.  Indeed, given the parlous state of the public finances, and the promise of Gordon Brown piling the debt mountain even higher, Cameron may find himself revising those NHS and international development pledges in due time.